2005-04-30 At Least 18 Arrests Made - NY Times

At Least 18 Arrests Made in Tense
Night of a Monthly Cycling Protest

[The final arrest count, after this went to press, was 34.]


New York Times

April 30th, 2005

By Kareem Fahim and Jim Dwyer

Under tense circumstances, the monthly Critical Mass bicycle
ride set out last night from multiple locations in Manhattan,
in an attempt by the riders to thwart a police crackdown.

The police did not supply arrest numbers last night, but a
lawyer who works with the riders, Julia Cohen, said at least 18
were detained.

Up to 400 people, many of them without bicycles, had gathered
in Union Square Park before riders fanned out to locations around
downtown Manhattan, including Tompkins Square Park in the East
Village, and Madison Square Park in the Flatiron District.

In one of the first arrests of the evening, a young woman who was
straddling her bike and walking it out of the south end of Union
Square Park was seized and personally arrested by Assistant Police
Chief Bruce H. Smolka Jr.

"You're riding your bicycle on the sidewalk," Chief Smolka said.
"You're under arrest."

The woman protested that she had done nothing wrong. The chief
insisted that she get off her bicycle immediately, and then he tried
to pull her off. The woman argued, and then other police officers,
some of them wearing plainclothes, joined the chief and forcibly
removed the woman from the bike.

Ride participants tried to retrieve the woman's bike and scuffled
with police officers, who then arrested a second woman.

The sight of a senior chief in the Police Department struggling in
a crowded public place with the woman roused the gathering of

Cries of "Let her go, let her go," and "fascist state" filled the
air, as Chief Smolka and other officers led the woman into a van. A
line of 10 motorcycles then sealed the edge of the sidewalk at the
intersection of 14th Street and Union Square East. The arrested woman
began to give her name in response to a question from a reporter, but
only uttered one word -- "Lisa" -- before she was pushed into the van
and the reporter was forced away from her.

Chief Smolka is the police official in charge of southern
Manhattan, and oversaw many of the mass arrests made in August before
and during the Republican National Convention, including more than
100 arrests of bicyclists at a Critical Mass ride that swelled to
include 5,000 riders.

Since then, the mass rides, which were conducted peacefully for
several years before that, have become a point of contention with
the Police Department.

Police officials have sought to require permits for the rides,
which are intended to promote pollution-free transportation. They
have filed for injunctions, first in federal court and more recently
in state court. And they have warned that riders who run red lights,
block intersections or otherwise break the law will be arrested.

In recent months, a cat-and-mouse game has developed, in which the
riders try to outrun the police by starting from multiple locations,
using cellphone text messages to spread the word. These efforts have
been met by increasing shows of force with police officers deployed on
foot and motorcycle, and in vans and helicopters. Last night, all of
them were darting through the narrow confines of Lower Manhattan.

Soon after the ride began, a freelance reporter for The New York
Times, Colin Moynihan, was standing on a sidewalk at Sixth Street
and Avenue A interviewing people when he was briefly detained and
handcuffed. He was later released by the police without charges.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company